NEWS: Wi-Fi Poaching Draws Fine

A Michigan man has been fined US$400 and must work 40 hours of community service for using a local café's Wi-Fi connection from his parked car to check his e-mail and surf the Web.

He got off easy, according to the local TV station that reported the case: under Michigan computer access law, using a Wi-Fi connection without authorization is a felony, punishable by as much a US$10,000 fine and five years in prison.

But the story raises more questions than it answers, including whether the café's Wi-Fi connection was a fee-based service, which would imply authorization was required, or a free service that, without any security restrictions, could be accessed by anyone within range, including someone outside the restaurant. The story also doesn't say whether the defendant, Sam Peterson II, of Sparta, Ill., was convicted of the crime or pled to the charge.

Peterson routinely drove to Sparta's Re-Union Street Caf, to check his e-mail but never went into the coffee shop. His regular routine drew the attention of Sparta Police Chief Andrew Milanowski, who asked Peterson what he was doing. Peterson told him. After checking the Michigan statutes, the chief swore out a complaint of fraudulent computer access.

Reply to
John Navas
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I'm sorry, but my take on wireless poaching is that it is up to the network owner to secure his network. Otherwise he is polluting the air with his wireless signals and inviting all to breathe in that polluted air.

Reply to
dejola

There's a coffee house in the library near me that has free Wi-Fi. The library now has its own Wi-Fi, but before they installed it the staff would tell people that needed wireless access to sit in a certain area so they could use the coffee house's network.

The defendant probably didn't get a lawyer and just plead guilty, which was stupid as now he has a record. The owner of the cafe didn't care, according to the story. Did the cafe have a policy that only people that bought something could use the network? What if you bought something but sat outside the cafe and used the network?

Reply to
SMS

The cop is overzealous and has too much free time on his hands.

Reply to
dejola

That's my take too, but that is not what the legislator feel about it. Sounds like someone with time and money needs to challenge the constitutionality of the law.

For those folks that set up wide-open WiFi networks and do not bother to change the router factory defaults, I usually access their router admin page, add some security and of course a password. If they happen to also have a network printer with no share password, I also try to print out a list of the changes I made for them :)

Reply to
Philip

Now, _that_ you should get arrested for. ;-(

Who are you to change someone else's setup?

Reply to
dold

Technically they never set it up, that's the problem. If a really bad person hit that kind of set up, the victim might not ever know they were hosting internet scam sites or handing out porn :)

Reply to
Philip

Philip hath wroth:

Hmmm... You're in Vacaville California? Therefore, I guess California law is what you should be watching. This *MIGHT* help in the future:

California Law to Require Wi-Fi Warnings, "WiFi User Protection Bill".

Reply to
Jeff Liebermann

Peter - you are being an angel, but some sorry lawyer can easily make you look like the devil and get you into lots of trouble.

Please be careful!

Reply to
c24

That's a problem by your definition. What you did was to break their network so they couldn't use it, to teach them a lesson.

I doubt if anyone will appreciate the help, and some will be rightfully incensed that you took it upon yourself to tamper with their computing environment.

You were "a really bad person", even if you had good intentions.

Reply to
dold

If you left your house door unlocked and a random stranger nipped in changed the locks without telling you, how would you react?

Sure. Trespass is still trespass, even if done with good intent. If I had forgotten to lock the front door at bedtime, do you think I'd react well on finding you in my kids' bedroom at 4am, "checking the windows"?

Reply to
Mark McIntyre

You all have the wrong analogy.

Bringing home a wireless router and just turning it on is more like buying a house with no doors or windows. Then erecting a big flashing neon sign (the SSID) that says "open house house, please come and take a look. Make yourself at home and feel free to use the phone and watch television".

The California initiative requires a label on wireless equipment warning users to add the doors and locks. The sign is still often left out on the street.

Reply to
Philip

Real lousy analogy since the sign requires an active behavior on the part of the "homeowner". In the case of wi-fi, problems occur because of lack of an active behavior. The better analogy is leaving the doors and windows unlocked. One has to test the doors before one knows if the house is open. Of course even then it trespassing.

Reply to
Kurt Ullman

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